Sliding Towards the Pit of Depression

Mental Health

…Continued from yesterday.

“You received a package while you were in Argentina,” I reminded Sarah as she settled back into her room at home.

“I did?”

I handed her the bag. “It feels like clothes or something.”

“Oh, yeah.  I ordered a bunch of clothes on line.  I don’t even remember what I bought, it was so long ago.” She ripped open the package and started pulling out the contents.

“Did they mix your order up?” I joked as she held up each item. Tank tops with the back cut out, short shorts and a Duck Dynasty t-shirt.  Sarah refused to wear any pants shorter than capris, and she only wore tank tops when exercising. To my knowledge she’d only seen Duck Dynasty once, and she had never shopped at the store in question.

She looked at the invoice.  “No, I ordered this stuff, but I don’t know what I was thinking!”  She shook her head and shoved everything but a hat back into the bag.  “What a waste of money.  I can’t believe I bought this stuff.”

“Maybe you can return it,” I said as I wandered out of her room, still shaking my head.  Conservative dresser Sarah buying short shorts?  Incomprehensible!

A few days later, when Sarah had once again declined my offer to go jogging, I asked her, “Are you still taking those pills?”

“No. The doctor tapered the dose because I was doing so much better,” she replied. “I haven’t taken them since I left Argentina.”

I gave her a worried look. After her initial happiness at returning home, she appeared to have hit a wall again with her plans. She had decided to return to Walla Walla in the fall, but still couldn’t make up her mind about a major. She struggled with eating too much and had lost her motivation to exercise.

“I’m fine, Mom,” Sarah assured me. But she didn’t seem fine. She hadn’t had any luck finding a summer job in our very small town. A good friend from high school had urged her to apply to a position at the same job she had—selling books from door to door. On the one hand, I didn’t know if Sarah would enjoy working for a conservative organization. On the other hand, I knew she would be safe and in the company of friends.

Sarah applied for both the salesperson job and a job at a local hotel. Since she had experience, we hoped the hotel would call her in for an interview. They didn’t, and the other job did. They even told her should could show up a few days late so that she could attend her sister’s graduation. But by this time, Sarah seemed less enthused about the sales job.

Because she didn’t have any other options, Sarah reluctantly packed her car and traveled to California with us for a five-day visit with Laura and her husband while I attended a teacher education class. Laura and Louis would graduate from college on Sunday, and from there we would all go our separate ways. Sarah to Oregon and Pedro and I to North Carolina for a much-needed vacation. After two weeks, he would return home and I would spend an additional three weeks studying at Western Carolina University.

The hotel called for an interview a few days after we arrived in California—but Sarah had already committed to the job in Oregon. Pedro and I stayed in the conference site hotel, and so we only saw Sarah once during this five-day period. Her mood deteriorated rapidly as the time for her departure neared. During breaks in my conference I would go out to the lobby and try to answer her texts. (Don’t laugh, but we actually text each other in complete sentences with proper punctuation—it’s an Ojeda thing)

Sarah Ojeda: Mom, I think I don’t want to sell books this summer and I just want to go home and get a job there. I might still be able to get the hotel one. I’m not ready to sell books and I’m not in the spiritual position to do it now!

Anita Ojeda: Call your father—I’m in a meeting ;). And remember that things weren’t peachy king at home, either.

Sarah Ojeda: Ugg Mom I just don’t want to do anything! I have no plans still for after this summer and I feel so lost and unmotivated to do anything at all! I don’t know what’s wrong with me!!

Anita Ojeda: I’m still in my meeting—I’ll be out soon :). What’s up?

Sarah Ojeda: I feel like giving up! I’ve been giving up and wasting so much time! I can’t get out of the mindset that I don’t want to do anything hard or use my brain and I’m mad at myself!! I’ve slipped into a dark hole and I can’t get out! I’ve become 100% selfish!

Anita Ojeda: What are you going to do about it?

Sarah Ojeda: I don’t know!

Anita Ojeda: No person can force you out of the pit. If you’re comfortable wallowing down there, well, there’s not much anyone can do. Have you started binging and purging again?

Sarah Ojeda: Just bingeing.

Anita Ojeda: So, this visit to the pit is not as deep as other times. Good for you for recognizing it sooner. Now build a bridge and get over it. It’s ALL in your mind! You ARE capable of making good decisions. You don’t have to be perfect. No one (including God) expects you to be perfect.

Sarah Ojeda: I want to be Laura. I want to be anybody but me! And it’s all because I don’t want to do hard things and I’m so lazy!

Anita Ojeda: So make a plan to be you. The you you want to be!

Sarah Ojeda: I want to be happy.

Anita Ojeda: You are in late adolescence—a time when scientists have determined that people can reinvent themselves.

Sarah Ojeda: And I want to make others happy but right now I’m being too selfish. 

Anita Ojeda: If you want to be happy—choose to be happy. Choose to do something NOT selfish.

Sarah Ojeda: I want to be you! You’re so smart and hardworking! Everyone in the world but me is at this point.

Anita Ojeda: But we ALL had to start somewhere with nothing.

 

Looking back now, I feel like a jerk—not someone with wisdom and understanding. I confess that my need to have Sarah safely employed for the summer so that I could continue with my own plans overshadowed my ability to see how desperately unhappy she felt.

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All too readily I believed her when she said that her problem was because she was ‘selfish’ and ‘unmotivated.’ I stood by blindly while my daughter took her first step over the edge into the pit of depression.

At this point, both Pedro and I couldn’t comprehend Sarah’s angst—after all, it was so out of character for her usual sunny disposition. She had always had a firm grip on who she was and where she wanted to go.

Our last evening together as a family, someone stole Sarah’s mountain bike from the bike rack on her car. I hoped that the theft would not foreshadow the kind of experiences she would have that summer.

To be continued…

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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